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Free-throw shooting costly for Wildcats in defeat

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County couldn’t make its free throws, especially when it counted, on Tuesday night.

The Wildcats fell 44-40 to Clarke County in Bull Run District girls basketball action after holding an 8-point halftime lead.

The Wildcats were 14-for-35 from the free-throw line, including 5-for-15 in the fourth period.

“Free throws are going to win you ball games and win you championships, and we have to learn that lesson,” Warren County coach John Kelly said. “You cant give away points like that where it’s not three or four points, it’s double-digit points. That’s the name of the game right there.”

The Wildcats led 25-17 at the half, but struggled to handle Clarke County’s full-court defensive pressure.

Warren County (7-10) turned the ball over nine times in the third period and made only one basket.

The Eagles (9-8) were able to rally and tie the game at 29-29 after three periods.

“We didn’t handle their pressure and they capitalized on it,” Kelly said.

The Wildcats also went nine minutes and 29 seconds without a made basket, which stretched from midway through the third period until 2:37 was left in the game.

“In the fourth quarter you need to lock down and you have to have that,” Kelly said of the scoring drought. “You have to make shots when it counts under pressure.”

The Eagles took their first lead since the second period on two free throws by Megan Hicks with 6:55 left in the game.

A free throw each by Kima Robinson and Cor’shauna Cunningham tied the game at 31 with 6:18 left.

The Eagles scored seven straight points to take a 38-31 edge with 3:09 left. The Wildcats turned the ball over numerous times, missed two free throws and two shots during the stretch.

Warren County’s Lauren Fox made a free throw and Robinson broke the field goal drought with a layup to cut the lead to 38-34.

After a layup by Clarke County’s Heather See, back-to-back baskets by Arianna Smoot and Robinson cut the lead to 40-38 with 1:12 left.

Clarke County’s Jade Payton made a free throw for a three-point lead with 1:03 left. However, the Wildcats missed four straight free throws over the next 30 seconds.

Payton stretched the lead to 43-38 with 11 seconds left. Warren County’s Caile Broy made two free throws with 4 seconds left, but a free throw by Hicks sealed the win for the Eagles.

The game was very physical and had 53 total fouls.

“We have to play much more physical against teams like Clarke,” Kelly said. “Like it or not, it can be a football game sometimes and you have to adapt to it, otherwise you get beat.”

The Eagles were led by Payton with 16 points, while Hicks had 12.

Smoot led the Wildcats with 12 points and seven rebounds, and Cunningham had 11 points and eight rebounds.

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com